Homecoming By The Sea

Book 1 in my new Haunting By The Sea Paranormal Mystery Series will debut on Tuesday, April 10th. I am in love with this new series and hope you will be as well. The series is a continuation of the Seacliff High Series although you do not have to of read Seacliff High to enjoy this new series that takes place with the same characters, in the same small town, in the same haunted house, as the original series.

Buy or read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited –  https://amzn.to/2uP21aR

 

Here is a preview:

Chapter 1
Monday, May21

I could hear the whispering long before I arrived. It started as a nagging in the back of my mind that grew to a symphony of voices calling me home. I’d felt the echo of what I’d left behind as I made the long trip from one coast to the other.

It had been ten years since I’d stood on this ground. Ten years since I’d heard the voices, felt the connection, seen the images of those who had come before. When I left Cutter’s Cove a decade ago, I knew I would return. What I didn’t know was how long my return would take.

I stood on the bluff overlooking the angry sea. The sky was dark, with heavy clouds that blocked what was left of the afternoon sun. The rumbling in the distance informed me that a storm was rolling toward shore, but it was the murmurs from the house that caused a chill to run down my spine.

I pulled my sweater tightly around my thin frame as the wind raged from the west. My blond hair blew across my face as I tried to emotionally confront the nightmare that had demanded my return. A good friend had died, brutally murdered in his own home. After six months, his killer still roamed free. This, I’d decided, was something I couldn’t bear.

“I’m here,” I whispered as the air became heavy with the approaching storm. Lightning flashed across the sky and still I waited. The house had once been my sanctuary, but now, after all this time, I was hesitant to find out who waited impatiently for my return.

I closed my eyes and listened as the waves crashed onto the rocky shore beneath me. I could feel a presence and wondered if my ability to see those who had passed on had been restored now that I’d returned to the house. It wasn’t as if I was born with the ability to see ghosts. I hadn’t, in fact, seen my first one until I’d moved from New York to Cutter’s Cove, Oregon, at the age of sixteen. At the time I believed the gift was the result of some sort of personal growth, but when I moved away from the house and away from the sea, the images faded.

My phone rang, and I turned back toward my Mercedes. I’d promised my mother I’d call when I arrived, so I hurried to the car. I opened the passenger side door and grabbed the phone, which had been resting on the charger.

“Are you there?” Mom asked from the other end of the phone line.

“I’m here.”

“How’s the house? Ten years is a long time to go without any type of maintenance.”

I looked toward the large home that Mom and I had bought and fixed up twelve years ago. We’d found the house—or perhaps the house had found us—during one of the most difficult times in our lives. Spending time together renovating the dilapidated old lady had not only been cathartic but life changing as well. “I haven’t been inside, but from the outside she looks just as I remember. She needs a coat of paint, but it seems she’s stood strong while she waited.”

“Are you sure about this?” Mom asked for the hundredth time.

“I’m sure.” I looked out toward the sea. “It’s been six months since Booker’s death. I spoke to Woody Baker,” I said, “and the police are no closer to solving the case than they were on the day his body was found.”

“I understand. I really do. But your life is in New York now. Doesn’t it feel strange to return to the place where everyone knew you as Alyson?”

I paused before I answered. An image of Alyson flashed through my mind. Although we’d shared the same body, in many ways she felt like a totally different person. When I’d lived in Cutter’s Cove a decade ago, I’d used the name Alyson Prescott, a persona I’d been assigned when my mom and I had been placed in the witness protection program. My real name is Amanda Parker, a name I resumed when the men who wanted me dead were murdered themselves. “Yes,” I admitted. “It does feel strange. But I have to do this.”

“You know I’ll support you, whatever you decide.”

I smiled. “I know. And I love you for it.” I felt a heavy weight settle in my chest. Deciding that serious conversations could wait for another day, I changed the subject. “How’s Tucker doing? Didn’t he have his checkup today?” Tucker was my German shepherd who stayed with Mom when I went away to college nine years ago. After college I’d secured a high-paying job in a very competitive industry and was rarely home, so Tucker had continued to live with my mother. He was twelve years old now and showing signs of slowing down.

“The vet said he’s doing really well for a dog his age. She gave me supplements as well as some mild pain meds to help with the arthritis.”

I let out a sigh of relief. “Good. I was worried about him. Give him a kiss for me and tell him I love him.”

“Always.”

I glanced back toward the house. “I should get inside and try to get the electricity and heat on before the storm arrives. I’m not sure if I’ll have reception once it does, so don’t worry if you can’t get hold of me.”

“Okay. Be careful.”

I smiled as the reality of my mother’s unconditional love warmed my heart. “I will. I love you. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

I opened the glove box and grabbed the keys to the house. When Mom and I had first come to Cutter’s Cove and found the house perched on the edge of the sea, we’d known we were home. Sure, it had stood empty since the death of the previous owner, and admittedly, it had been about as dilapidated as a house could be and still be standing, but it had history and character, and as far as we were concerned, it was love at first sight. Hoping the key would work in the old lock, I slipped it into the door. Luckily, it turned without effort and I stepped inside.

Finally, I heard the house whisper.

I’m not sure how to explain what I felt in that moment. A sense of homecoming, for sure, but also a hollowness I couldn’t quite explain. The furniture Mom and I had taken such care to choose was covered with sheets and every other surface was covered with dust. I took a step forward, batting at the tapestry of cobwebs that hung from the ceiling.

I took several more steps into the interior. “Is anyone there?” I said out loud. I hadn’t seen anyone, but the sense that I wasn’t alone was overwhelming.

As I stood silently and listened, memories I thought long buried suddenly consumed me. When Mom and I had first come to Cutter’s Cove I’d been so lost. My best friend had just been murdered and Mom and I had been forced to flee the life we’d always known because the men who’d committed the murder had identified me, the only witness to a gangland shooting. I’d thought leaving Amanda Parker behind would be both painful and confusing, and it was, but I found Alyson’s easygoing approach to life surprisingly refreshing. During the two years I’d lived as Alyson, I rarely thought of Amanda, yet it hadn’t been all that difficult to reclaim my old life when I returned to the place where Amanda’s had been the only identity I’d ever known.

“Is anyone there?” I repeated as I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye.

I paused, but no one answered. I supposed it could just be a trick of the light.

The gas and electrical turnoffs were in the basement, so I headed in that direction. The house was huge and so very different from anything we’d known in New York, with nine fireplaces spread among three floors of living space. There was also a basement and a finished attic. Mom, an artist, had replaced the wall on the ocean side of the attic with windows and had turned the space into a studio. She never spoke of it now that she’d resumed her old life, but I often pictured her there, standing at the window, looking out to sea with a contemplative look on her face.

As I entered the main living area, I glanced at the painting on the wall. Mom had captured me and my two best friends, Mackenzie Reynolds and Trevor Johnson, in an unsuspecting moment and converted the photo to oil. When I’d left Cutter’s Cove ten years ago, I’d promised Mac and Trevor that I’d come back to visit all the time. I promised we’d text and Skype every day, and one day find our way back to one another. And we had texted and Skyped. At first. But as the weeks turned into months, and the months into years, we’d become busy with our own lives and drifted apart.

A rustling overhead caused me to pause and listen. It could be animals who’d found their way into the house, though the last time I’d heard strange noises overhead it hadn’t been animals at all.

“Hello,” I called, louder this time. “Is someone there?”

There was no answer and the rustling stopped, so I continued into the kitchen. I focused on the clickety-clack of my heels hitting the deep blue tile floor as I crossed the room. At the stairs leading down to the basement, I turned on the flashlight on my phone and made my way into the inky darkness of the damp room. When we’d first moved into the house, the space beneath the first floor had been cluttered with remnants from previous residents, as had the attic. Mom and I had cleared out both spaces, and now the basement was mostly empty. My first stop was the electrical box. I’d called the power company a few days before to have the power turned on and hoped all that would be required to bathe the house in light would be a flip of the switch.

“Voilà!” I said as the power came on.

Now all I had to do was turn on the gas and I might be looking at a hot bath that evening. I’d been driving for days, but the journey seemed little more than a blur in my consciousness. Once I’d started the drive west I’d felt the pull of the voices and had thought about little else. After confirming that the gas was working, I went back upstairs to the first floor. It would take me a couple of days of elbow grease before the place was habitable, but for now, I had plumbing and a place to stay. I’d brought an ice chest with a few necessities as well as coffee and wine, so it seemed I could survive the night.

I was about to head upstairs to check out my room when my phone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at the caller ID. My first reaction was annoyance that my life in New York had found a way to intrude on my first minutes back in Cutter’s Cove, then realized how irrational that was and answered. “Ethan. I was just going to call you,” I said to my boyfriend of two years, Ethan Wentworth.

“Have you arrived?”

“I have.”

“And how did you find it?”

“I mostly remembered how to get here.”

Ethan didn’t speak for a moment. I knew he was confused by my response, but I couldn’t help but tease him after the way he’d framed his question. Ethan was a wonderful person and a kind and considerate boyfriend, but he was a product of old money and a rigid upbringing that resulted in a precise way of moving and speaking.

“I’m just kidding.” I laughed. “I found the house to be dusty but intact. How did your court case go?”

“Fine. Our case was impenetrable.”

“So you won?”

“Yes. I believe I just said that.”

I smiled. “You did, and I’m proud of you. I knew you would tear the place up with your research.”

Ethan was a junior partner for one of the top law firms in New York, while I worked as a graphic designer for one of the top advertising agencies.

“Have you had a chance to talk to your policeman friend?” Ethan asked.

“No. I’ll track Woody down tomorrow. Right now, I’m exhausted. I just want to settle in, take a hot bath, and maybe have a glass of wine.”

“I ran into Skip and Gina today,” Ethan said without a beat. He obviously hadn’t picked up on my subtle hint that maybe we should sign off now. “They’re planning a party next month to celebrate Skip’s promotion and their purchase of the new yacht. They asked if you’d be back by then. I told them I thought you would.”

I couldn’t help but notice his tone made it a question rather than a statement. “I took a six-week leave from the office, but if I get things wrapped up sooner, I’ll certainly come home sooner. Still, I don’t think I can commit to a party in just a few weeks. I’ll have to let you know.”

“Are you sure about this venture you’ve embarked on? You realize it’s not your responsibility to find this man’s killer.”

“Of course it isn’t. Still, I think I can help.”

“How? I understand he was your friend and his murder has gone unsolved and that makes you sad and angry. But really, Amanda, how can you help?”

I hesitated. Ethan didn’t know about my ability to see ghosts. He’d never understand, and I knew I could never tell him. That part of me belonged to Alyson. Ethan was part of Amanda’s world. “It’s hard to explain. Listen, I have to go. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Ethan let out a breath that sounded a lot like frustration. “All right. Be careful.”

“I will.” I hung up and held the phone to my chest. Ethan didn’t understand, and I supposed I didn’t blame him. I slipped the phone into my pocket and went toward the stairs. I’d just begun my ascent when a flash of something caught my eye. “Hello,” I called once again. “Is someone there?”

There was still no answer, but I was pretty sure what I was seeing and hearing wasn’t an animal. “Barkley?” I asked. Barkley Cutter had been the previous owner of the house and the first ghost I’d seen after moving to Cutter’s Cove. “Is that you? Are you here?”

There was no answer, but Barkley had never answered in the past. My ability to communicate with ghosts had been limited to seeing them. I’d never been able to speak to them. I was pretty sure Barkley had moved on once my friends and I had solved his murder and found his grandson, so the flash I kept seeing most likely wasn’t him.

I supposed any number of spirits could have moved into the house during the decade I’d been gone. In my experience, if they wanted to make contact they would, so I continued to walk on. When I reached the landing to the second floor, I glanced toward the room that had been my mother’s. It felt odd to be in the house without her, but she was busy with her new life, or maybe I should say the resumption of her old one. I took a moment to remember the way things had been when we’d first purchased the house, then went to my own room. When I opened the door, I expected to see sheets and cobwebs, as elsewhere, but what I found instead was someone lounging on my bed.

“Who are you?” I asked the apparition, who looked exactly like me. A younger version of me, but me nonetheless.

“I’m Alyson. Who are you?”

“Amanda. What are you?” The form really did look like me, although she was translucent, like a ghost. Somehow, I didn’t think she was a ghost. For one thing, I wasn’t dead. For another, I could speak to her and hear her response.

Alyson laid back against the pillow and lifted her legs into the air. She stared at her feet, which were in line with her hips, as if they were the most interesting thing she’d ever seen. “I’m not totally clear on this, but I think I’m the part of you that you left behind.”

I narrowed my gaze. “You’re part of me? Have you been here this whole time?”

Alyson shrugged. “I guess. What has it been, a couple of weeks?”

“Ten years.”

“Damn, girl. I had no idea.” Alyson sat up and crossed her legs. “No wonder I’m so bored. Things have been kinda dead around here since you left.”

I frowned.

“Get it? Dead around here?” Alyson giggled.

I tossed the Michael Kors bag that held my overnight things on the floor and then sat on the edge of the bed. A white sheet still covered the mattress. “You look like me, but you don’t sound like me. I left here when I was seventeen, and even though I was a teenager, I certainly didn’t talk or act the way you do.”

“What can I say? What you see is the new and improved version of Alyson. Alyson 2.0, if you like.”

I frowned. “How is that possible? Even if by some weird chance the part of me that’s somehow connected to this house remained behind when I left, why on earth would it have a completely different personality?”

Alyson shrugged. “I guess Amanda took all the stodgy, boring, elitist stuff with her and what was left behind were all the best parts. Did you bring food?”

“Do you eat?”

Alyson’s smile faded. “Unfortunately, no. But I can remember what it was like when I was you and you were me and we were one. It’s been a while.”

“If I eat, will you be able to enjoy it?”

“I have no idea, but I’d love to try.” Alyson tilted her head. Her long blond hair swept the mattress. I missed my long hair. At some point along the way I’d decided a woman of my age needed to present a more professional appearance, so I’d cut it. Not super short. Around shoulder length.

I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths. I still wasn’t sure if Alyson was real. For all I knew, I was suffering the effects of driving three thousand miles in four days.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Alyson said. “And I can assure you, I’m real.”

I opened my eyes. “How did you know what I was thinking?”

“Duh.” Alyson rolled her eyes. “I’m you, remember? And no…” Alyson got up and began jumping up and down on the bed. “You aren’t going crazy. And yes, you’ll eventually come to love me.”

Now I was sure I was having a hallucination. I never jumped on beds as Amanda or Alyson. Not even when I was a young child. Jumping on beds was something people like me simply didn’t do. “I’m going out to the car to get the rest of my things. I assume you’ll be gone when I get back.”

Alyson got down off the bed. “Amanda, Amanda, Amanda. How do I make you understand? I’m not going anywhere. I live here. Haven’t you been paying attention?”

“I’ve been paying attention, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept what I’m seeing. If you were me, you would act like me. Because you don’t, my only conclusion is that you’re a figment of my imagination.”

Alyson walked over to me. We were exactly the same height, so her blue eyes looked directly into mine. “What happened to you? Don’t you remember being Alyson? Don’t you remember wearing jeans and going barefoot and having fun? Don’t you remember how happy you were once you were able to shed Amanda and her zillions of dollars, private schools, and designer shoes that felt like torture every minute you wore them?”

I glanced down at the pantsuit I was wearing with matching pumps. I really was dying to kick them off and pull on some baggy sweats. Of course, Amanda didn’t own baggy sweats. “I do remember,” I said. “But that wasn’t real. Alyson wasn’t real. It was as if I took a vacation from my life, but somewhere inside I knew Amanda was always there, waiting to come out when it was safe to do so.”

Alyson shrugged. “Suit yourself. If you’re going to empty that fancy car of yours that probably cost more than you paid for this house, you’d better hurry. It’s starting to rain.”

Ghost me was right. It was starting to rain. I paused for just a moment and then hurried down the stairs to get the things I’d left in my trunk. When I returned, she was gone. Perhaps she’d been an illusion after all.

 

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9 thoughts on “Homecoming By The Sea

  1. sb8857 says:

    WOW!! That first line was awesome, and the whole first paragraph amazing!! The rest of the chapter filled me in on so much about the characters, setting, and storyline that I couldn’t help but be hooked, especially that “guest” in Amanda’s room. Can’t wait to read more. You are an awesome writer Kathi Daley!!

  2. Lynda says:

    Although Kathi is an established author, I unexpectedly found her books while surfing with my Kindle in the Amazon Bookstore. A link led to this blog and the discovery of the “Homecoming By The Sea” excerpt. The emerging story is charming, and l’m eager for more. So, I have made a beeline to purchase the Kindle version of the book and jot this reply. I’m ready to immerse myself in the bewitching story. BTW, I NEVER write reviews and just have to share my anticipation. A big thank you. 👌

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